This Photoseries Captures the State of China’s Renowned Architectural Icons

This Photoseries Captures the State of China’s Renowned Architectural Icons

A simultaneous celebration of their cultural iconicity and distillation from their various contexts, Beautified China is a photographic essay by Kris Provoost (one-half of the vlogging duo behind #donotsettle) that tracks the evolution of Chinese architectural landmarks over the course of the past 7 years. Beginning his investigation with the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, Provoost considers a decade of architecture proposed for China by the profession’s biggest names, many of which have been built now with monumental reputations in rising cities.

“Most ‘starchitects’ had their chance to build, or to fulfill their wildest dreams,” explains Provoost. “Some of them became landmarks: CCTV headquarters by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren or the Bird’s Nest/National Stadium by Herzog and de Meuron for example. Others have turned a suburb into a new center, or have established a new city on its own.”

This Photoseries Captures the State of China’s Renowned Architectural Icons - More Images+ 17

The reality is, however, that these buildings have redefined the identities of the cities they now belong to, overshadowing the importance of historical and traditional sites. “Can this be called success or just superficiality?” asks Provoost.

Find out if these Chinese icons truly live up to their celebrated reputations, through the photographs below.

National Stadium, Beijing / Herzog and de Meuron (Photo taken: 2016)

National Stadium / Herzog and de Meuron. Image © Kris Provoost
National Stadium / Herzog and de Meuron. Image © Kris Provoost

In the spotlight during the 2 weeks of Olympics. After that the stadium hasn’t seen much use to the level it was designed for. The occasional football match during the summer Asia tours of the European Football Club and snow park during the winter month. Completely falling in despair, living up to the Olympics faith as we have seen in many other stadiums.

OCT Pavilion, Shenzhen / Jurgen Mayer (Photo taken: 2014)

OCT Pavilion / Jurgen Mayer. Image © Kris Provoost

Novartis Campus, Shanghai / standardarchitecture, Zhang Ke (Photo taken: 2016)

Novartis Campus / standardarchitecture, Zhang Ke . Image © Kris Provoost

Shanghai Tower, Shanghai/ Gensler (Photo taken: 2016)

Shanghai Tower / Gensler. Image © Kris Provoost

Finished during 2016, this is the crown jewel of Shanghai and extension China to the outside world. It stands proud rising higher than life. Due to its curvature, the sun is always creating a shiny point making the tower always crisp and clean. Very successful design in terms of architecture and city image/vision.

CCTV Headquarters, Beijing / OMA, Rem Koolhaas, Ole Scheeren (Photo taken: 2010-2016)

CCTV Headquarters / OMA, Rem Koolhaas, Ole Scheeren. Image © Kris Provoost
CCTV Headquarters / OMA, Rem Koolhaas, Ole Scheeren. Image © Kris Provoost

A true marvel in terms of architecture and engineering is looming over the Beijing CBD. The striking shape is different from every angle. Nowadays it is overpowered by a bunch of new skyscrapers. The designed public loop is still not open for visitors, making it impossible for people to walk into this building. Sad.

Moma/Linked Hybrid, Beijing / Steven Holl Architects (Photo taken: 2011)

Linked Hybrid / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Kris Provoost
Linked Hybrid / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Kris Provoost

A housing development in the center of Beijing. Humongous scale as is typical in China. The color makes it fit right in the usually gray smogged sky. The linked bridge allowing for interesting vantage points. The concept is great, reality is different. Bridges are barely used, with empty swimming pools and oversized ‘exhibition spaces as result.

Vanke Headquarters/Horizontal Skyscraper, Beijing / Steven Holl Architects (Photo taken: 2014)

Horizontal Skyscraper / Steven Holl Architects. Image © Kris Provoost

The horizontal skyscraper. I remember the great diagrams when published. Situated on the far outskirts of Shenzhen in a beautiful location. Rising of the green, this large structure creates great views. Fully in use by the user. Overall successful.

Wangjing SOHO, Beijing / Zaha Hadid Architects (Photo taken: 2016)

Wangjing SOHO / Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Kris Provoost

One of the 3 built SOHO China projects done by ZHA. This one is located out- side Beijing City Centre. It rises above its neighbors marking a new center. A sort of welcome to the city when coming from the airport. Looking closer, the retail part is highly unsuccessful. Below standard tiny shops fill the lower levels. A fault of the business plan?

Galaxy SOHO, Beijing / Zaha Hadid Architects (Photo taken: 2016)

Galaxy SOHO / Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Kris Provoost

The first SOHO project for Zaha Hadid Architects. Excellent location within close proximity to the forbidden city. A true ‘blob’ within a rigid system. Same issue as with Wangjing SOHO, rundown retail shops within a high-class architectural piece of work. Attracts lots of people. There for work/shopping or to admire the architecture? Unsure.

International Youth Centre, Nanjing /Zaha Hadid Architects (Photo taken: 2016)

International Youth Centre / Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Kris Provoost

Placed within a new district in Nanjing, the former capital of the Chinese Empire. This development of 2 towers with a large theater (with 2 rooms) is the centerpiece, nicely placed on the center axis. Wasn’t completely finished when visited in 2016, but was about to open. Hotel operator making finishing touches.

Guangzhou Opera House, Guangzhou / Zaha Hadid Architects (Photo taken: 2014)

Guangzhou Opera House / Zaha Hadid Architects. Image © Kris Provoost

The first Zaha Hadid in China. Also here, the centerpiece of the new Guangzhou CBD. Plagued with some bad luck during construction, it opened with a lot of excitement. Geometry too difficult at the time to built (opened in 2011). Nowadays fully in use, smaller spaces used for KFC. Can only China put a KFC in a Zaha?

Bund International Finance Center – Theater, Shanghai / Heatherwick (Photo taken: 2016)

Bund International Finance Centre - Theatre / Heatherwick Studio. Image © Kris Provoost

The newest kid on the block. This theater is part of a larger scale development designed by Foster + Partners. Recently finished and taken in use. Important development along the Huangpu river, the main river in Shanghai. The materiality of this theater fits well in China. Seemingly over decorated in bronze, just what the Chinese like.

China Pavilion Expo 2010 / China Art Museum, Shanghai/ JingTang (Photo taken: 2015)

China Pavilion / JingTang. Image © Kris Provoost

Highest and largest pavilion at the time during the Expo. Placed along the main axis, it is visible from far and will always remember the time Shanghai showed the world how to organize a proper World Expo. Nowadays transformed into the China Art Museum attracting lots of people on a daily basis. More worth the money than all other country pavilions?

Run Run Shaw Creative Center, Hong Kong /Daniel Libeskind (Photo taken: 2016)

Run Run Shaw Creative Centre / Daniel Libeskind. Image © Kris Provoost

Status: In Use

British Pavilion, Shanghai / Heatherwick / (Photo taken: 2010)

British Pavilion / Heatherwick Studio. Image © Kris Provoost

Status: Unknown

Bund SOHO, Shanghai / gmp Architekten (Photo taken: 2016)

Bund SOHO gmp Architekten. Image © Kris Provoost

The bookend of the classic European style buildings. Newly developed quarter housing offices and co-working spaces. No retail this time for SOHO China and that’s a wise decision. Excellent address on your business card. Quiet space in the otherwise bustling part of time. And with an amazing view of the Pudong Skyline from the terraces. A successful project that’s for sure.

Conrad Hotel, Beijing / MAD Architects (Photo taken: 2016)

Conrad Hotel / MAD Architects. Image © Kris Provoost

Usually draped into smog, this organic facade surely stands out along the 3rd ring road in Beijing. Fully in use by the hotel operator. This building is different from its neighbors, the typical generic buildings in Beijing. Once you see it, you will remember for long time to come. Isn’t that what you want as a hotel operator?

Check out the #donotsettle videos on architecture and its users, created by Kris Provoost and Wahyu Pratom, here.

News via: Kris Provoost.

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About this author
Cite: Osman Bari. "This Photoseries Captures the State of China’s Renowned Architectural Icons" 20 Apr 2017. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

© Kris Provoost


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